Liberty Baseball Completes Bellarmine Sweep With Walk Off
The Liberty Flames baseball team was one strike away in the top of the ninth from sweeping Bellarmine when Knights second baseman Justin Rousse rose to the occasion, coming in clutch when his team was down 7-5 and had two men on base. Flames relief pitcher Landon Riley had not given up an earned run all year, but Rousse changed that when he connected on a hanging slider and crushed the ball over the left-field fence.
Bellarmine now led 8-7, and the Knights had all the momentum on their side. Things had quickly gotten out of hand for the Flames.
When Flames designated hitter Logan Mathieu entered the box in the bottom of the ninth, Liberty had two outs and one man on base, and it was Liberty’s turn to feel desperate. But Mathieu felt no such pressure and waited confidently for his pitch.
He did not wait long.
Mathieu took Knights reliever Reece Davis deep to the opposite field on his first offering, driving a breaking ball that hit off the top of the scoreboard. The hit gave Liberty a 9-8 victory and sent the stadium into euphoric celebration.
Mathieu had been diligently working on some mechanical adjustments to his swing over the weekend. His hard work over the off-days resulted in him going 5-for-12 in the series with three home runs, nine RBIs and a walk-off blast.
“If you put in the work, the game will reward you,” Mathieu said. “In the back of my mind I was telling myself, ‘I put the work in, now it’s time to show up for the team.’”
Earlier in the game and heading into the sixth inning, a roller-coaster finish seemed out of the question. Center fielder Jaylen Guy and Mathieu each homered to contribute to the Flames 5-0 lead through five innings.
Liberty starting pitcher Trey Gibson had struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings and had only allowed three hits with one unearned run, but he also loaded the bases with one out. Fraser Ellard relieved Gibson, but his efforts were not enough to keep his inherited runners from scoring.
Liberty got some insurance runs back when designated hitter Brady Gulakowski roped a two-run home run to center field to go up 7-4, leaving everyone to believe that the game was safely in Liberty’s grasp. Bellarmine, however, had other things in mind heading into the final frame before Mathieu’s heroics at Worthington Field.
Mathieu’s home run was Liberty’s fourth on the day — a season high for the Flames.
“From top to bottom, all of our guys can (be successful), and we just expect to pass the bat to the next guy,” Gulakowski said.
The win was Liberty’s 10th straight victory against ASUN opponents. The Flames are 7-3 in their last 10 games and now hold a two-game lead over Kennesaw State in the north division.
The Flames will take this momentum to Wake Forest on Tuesday for a one-game showdown with the Demon Deacons at 3 p.m. The Flames have soaring confidence heading into the home stretch of their regular season after Sunday’s dramatic victory.
Flames Head Coach Scott Jackson was thrilled with how his side responded through a matchup that tested the team’s toughness.
“(Bellarmine has) got some veteran and gritty payers, but we’ve got a lot of that in our club house,” Jackson said. “I’m proud of the response that we got from our kids in tough moments. There’s a lot of character in that locker room.”
John Simmons is the graduating Web Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSimmonsJr7.